What Are Sanctuary Cities?

Anyone following recent news and developments surrounding immigration may have heard the term “sanctuary city” being used, though there seems to be some disagreement as to what the term actually means. Due to the sensitive nature of undocumented immigrants in the United States, elected officials in several major cities have made promises to immigrant communities that they will resist efforts by the federal or state governments to deport or otherwise interfere with the lives of immigrants living in America. While a legal definition has not yet been established, a sanctuary city essentially refers to any city which has stated it will protect, to some extent, the rights of undocumented and registered immigrants living within its boundaries. These cities have pledged to limit their cooperation with federal or state authorities, whether through rejecting the use of tax dollars for enforcing immigration law, or by establishing policies that specifically protect immigrants.

The reason cities such as New York, San Francisco, Seattle, and Chicago have established these practices is to ensure that immigrants do not intentionally fail to report crimes, seek medical attention or healthcare, or enroll their children in schools due to fear of being deported when their undocumented status is discovered. These practices are not necessarily a new development – the city of Los Angeles created a policy in 1979 whereby police officers were not permitted to detain people solely to discern their immigration status. To date, some 300 cities are categorized as sanctuary cities by the Center for Immigration Studies, a non-profit organization studying immigration in the United States.

Sanctuary City Provisions Vary

Because there are no set legal bounds for defining a sanctuary city, the exact nature and extent of protection policies varies between cities and states. Cities like Berkeley, California have actively stated their sanctuary status in order to both protect residents and protest federal meddling, while other cities are more informally designed as sanctuaries due to a lack of legislation and policies. The current consensus among political scientists in the United States is that sanctuary city status does not contribute in a significant way to violent crime.

Philadelphia Immigration Lawyers at Surin & Griffin, P.C. Aid Immigrant Families

The Philadelphia immigration lawyers at Surin & Griffin, P.C. serve clients across Pennsylvania. Aiding with labor certification, employment visas, deportation asylum, and abuse cases, Philadelphia immigration lawyers can help families and workers in numerous ways. Contact us online or call our offices at 215-925-4435 to learn more.